Around half of private renters did not feel safe in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic, while a quarter say their housing situation made lockdown harder, according to research.
England is in the midst of a housing, health and economic emergency, with just 51% of private renters saying their home made them feel safe during the Covid-19 outbreak, housing charity Shelter found.
Its survey, of 5,177 adults between September 4 and 7, also found that a quarter of private renters said their overall housing situation made lockdown harder to cope with, and their mental health had worsened.
Twice the proportion of private tenants struggled during the lockdown as those renting in social housing (13%), Shelter said.
The charity said the long-term trend of low-income households renting from private landlords has meant an increasing number of people are in unfit homes that they can barely afford.
The survey also found that 56% of private renters experienced an issue with the condition of their home during lockdown, compared with 30% of the overall number polled.
Around a third (35%) said they were living in poor conditions, experiencing electrical hazards, pests or damp-related issues, while 15% said they experienced a housing maintenance issue that caused stress during lockdown.
Some 44% of private renters said their home has less space than they need, and 29% said this made lockdown harder, compared with 29% and 15% respectively of the overall number polled.
If extrapolated to population level, Shelter’s findings suggest 2.1 million people found lockdown more difficult due to their housing situation, while three million were living in poor conditions.
Its new report, Building Our Way Out, said a “disastrous” lack of social housing has plunged England into a housing emergency which is only being deepened by Covid-19.
Chief executive Polly Neate said: “Our homes are our first line of defence in this pandemic.
“But millions have spent months trapped in private rentals they do not trust to keep them safe, and right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
“After decades of decline, a dire lack of social homes means too many people pay too much for cramped and poor-quality housing – or, worse yet, they find themselves with nowhere to live.
“With the stakes so high, the case for building decent social homes is clear.”
The charity believes the Government’s existing provision for new social homes is “woefully inadequate”, with only enough funding for one home for every 96 waiting households.
It is calling for Chancellor to Rishi Sunak to produce a rescue package of £12.2 billion in investment over the next two years to fund 50,000 new social homes.
This, the charity says, could “kick-start the post-Covid recovery and reverse years of decline” in social house-building.
A Government spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures. We’ve taken unprecedented action to protect renters including a six-month ban on evictions, as well as preventing people getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries and boosting the welfare safety net by over £9 billion.
“Renters will continue to be protected through winter, including 6-month notice periods and instructing bailiffs not to enforce evictions in areas of local lockdown – anyone now served notice will not have to leave their home except in the most serious cases, such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.
“Anyone worried about losing their home and not having anywhere else to go should speak to their local council, which has a duty in law to help prevent them becoming homeless.”